Friday, February 15, 2008

Watford preview

The next port of call during this rollercoaster season is the reverse fixture with leaders Watford, just four weeks after drawing 1-1 at Vicarage Road.

With our next two home games coming against the teams currently occupying the automatic promotion spots (the second of which I'll be attending), our hopes of avoiding the tension of the play-offs could soon be dashed and, if we're honest, deservedly so too.

We simply haven't achieved the level of consistency required to mount a genuine automatic promotion campaign. A failure to put together back-to-back wins since early-December yet more evidence thereof, as is the fact that we are on course for just 73 points, a total achieved last season by Stoke (who finished 8th).

Despite various injury problems during the season, I consider our squad to be the strongest in the division, so it's all rather disappointing. Then again of course, our recent home form has been a much welcome bright spot implying we might just pull it off after all, but I keep having this recurring dream that we'll be at Wembley on May 24.

Tuesday's point at Sheffield Wednesday was welcome on the balance of play, but again does not suggest we are a team with the confidence and nous to deliver the 2+ points per game required from here on. Some have suggested the presence of a newly-fit Andy Reid could have broken the deadlock, and the statistics do offer some support for this view.

Reid featured in all 22 of our opening fixtures (starting 21, and appearing as a half-time substitute at Colchester). Our record in those 22 fixtures, compared to the most recent 10 that he missed were as follows:

WITH REID: P22 W11 D4 L7 F32 A24 Pts 37 (Average: 1.68)
WITHOUT REID: P10 W3 D5 L2 F12 A10 Pts 14 (Average: 1.40)

More wins and more defeats on average, suggesting as many of us thought that carrying such a talented but immobile player was essentially a trade-off. Interestingly those three wins without Reid (Blackpool, Stoke, Palace) might easily be described (based upon what I've read and heard) as our three best performances of the season, suggesting that when the current line-up clicks without him, then it really clicks. It's now up to Pards to produce more performances like that trio, and less of the Scunthorpe or Sheffield Wednesday ilk. If he does that, few of us will miss Andy Reid.

There was certainly nothing in Watford's performance against us last month to suggest we have much to fear, although Pards may be tempted to return Chris Iwelumo to the line-up as he did against Stoke, if only to counteract their physical presence. This would be a backward step in my view (not least given Luke Varney's performance versus Palace), and hand an immediate psychological boost to the Hornets. Moreover, our goal against Stoke came after the big man had been substituted.

Ambrose meanwhile is rumoured to be struggling, and frankly his place must have been under threat anyhow from either Jerome Thomas or Lee Cook. Playing the Fulham man might be seen as the higher-risk option, but in return he might just freshen things up for us and lift the (near capacity) crowd. More interestingly perhaps, Pards might want to consider playing the right-footed Thomas in place of the inconsistent Lloyd Sam.

Meanwhile in defence, a clean sheet at Hillsborough would appear offer few reasons to rush back Bougherra or Sodje (if fit), to play alongside Paddy McCarthy who seems to be making a late late push to win Player of the Year.

Thus I expect us to line up as follows: Weaver, Halford, Youga, McCarthy, Fortune, Cook, Holland, Zheng, Thomas, Varney, Gray. Subs: Elliot, Sodje, Semedo, Iwelumo, Sam.

NY Addick predicts: Charlton 2 (Varney, Zheng), Watford 0. Att: 26, 289.


At 6:23 PM, Blogger Kings Hill Addick said...

NYA, Based on past performance I am a little worried that you are thinking of attending the Bristol City game. If we lose that one I don't want you anywhere near The Valley, should we need a win in the home leg of the Play Offs.

At 6:26 PM, Anonymous newyorkaddick said...

Fair point. I wonder if the club is willing to pay me to stay away?

At 5:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In mitigation, I flew 5000 miles to see the Ipswich game so maybe the club should bring me over for the rest of the season.


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